Solukhumbu, the land of Mount Everest, is also the homeland of the triumphant mountaineers, the Sherpas. Ever wondered what Sherpa food culture and cuisine are like? To understand this, let’s dig a little deeper into the history and livelihood of Sherpas first.
Sherpas are the indigenous people who were the first to settle in Solukhumbu after migrating from Kham, a place in Eastern Tibet in the mid 16th century. They brought the food culture from Tibet along with them. And you can clearly see the similarities. Since not much grows in the mountains, Sherpa food is very simple, and the ingredients in most dishes are a few locally grown crops, potatoes, vegetables, and products derived from animal milk. Hence, the specialty of Sherpa food lies in its simplicity.
And the best part is, you can taste most of their dishes during your Everest Base Camp Trek. We have compiled a list of Sherpa Food and where you can eat them in the trails for you.
But first, a little tip for the trails: Although most authentic dishes have meat, we don’t suggest eating meat in the trails for two reasons. First, you don’t find yak or sheep meat in the trails, so the lodges replace it with other meat. And second, the meat is generally unrefrigerated and unhygienic. It is either brought from Kathmandu, then transported through porters/mules or carried all the way from the villages below Lukla on the back of mules for several days.
1. Shakpa/ Syakpa
Also known as Sherpa stew, Shakpa is a soupy noodle cuisine eaten by the Sherpas. The homemade noodles in the stew can either be round and thick or cut flat into squares. The ingredients in this soupy stew are dried or fresh meat (yak or sheep) and any locally grown vegetables like spring onion, potato, spinach, and carrots. You can add salt and spices as you want. Different households have their own version of Shakpa.
Where to Eat: All the hotels offer Sherpa Stew. You should try it as an alternative to the soup as it keeps your body warm and helps fight the cold. They have vegetarian options too.
2. Momo and T momo
Dumplings are eaten all around the world in one way or the other. And, momos are steamed dumplings filled with veggies or meat eaten in Nepal. You can also call it the unofficial national food of Nepal.
Even Sherpas cook steamed dumplings in a number of ways. The fillings in regular momos are either meat, potato, or vegetables, with added spices like spring onions, garlic, and salt. Sherpa momos have a slightly different taste than regular momos served in Kathmandu. T momo or Tingmo is another unique dumpling cooked in Sherpa households. They are popularly eaten in Tibet and Bhutan as well. These are the steamed fluffy buns made out of flour dough and rolled in a unique shape. Since T momo has a slightly bland taste, it is generally paired with either vegetable curry, pickles, or hot drinks.
Where to Eat: Don’t worry, you’ll not miss out on momos anywhere in the trails. Hotels offer a variety of meat and vegetarian options for momos However, T momos are rare, and only some hotels up to Namche Bazaar offer it on their menu.
Thukpa is a simple noodle dish with soup similar to Syakpa. While the noodles are flat and hand-pulled in Syakpa, Thukpa has long noodles as the main ingredient. It is then mixed with cooked meat and veggies like spring onions, greens, carrot, and chilies. Thukpa makes a delicious warm dish for the winters.
Where to Eat: You can find thukpa in the lodges’ menu during your trek. It is also served in several restaurants in Kathmandu but makes a perfect lunch or dinner on the trails. If you are a vegetarian, you can order the one without meat.
4. Riki kur
Riki kur is a popular Sherpa dish made from the staple crop- potatoes. The name translates to potato pancake as ‘Riki’ means potato, and ‘kur’ means pancake. It is a flat pancake made by mixing a batter of flour and grated potatoes. Sherpa people mostly serve it with yak cheese or butter.
Where to Eat: Some hotels in the lower section of the trails have Potato pancakes on their menu. Although some traditional touch may be missing, you can still enjoy the cuisine in the Sherpa village. 🙂
Tsampa is a staple cuisine that Sherpas have been having since their days in Tibet five hundred years ago. It is locally roasted barley flour and can be prepared easily. Because of its nutritious and filling nature, Tsampa makes perfect sense in these cold mountainous climates. You can either eat the powdered Tsampa dry or make porridge (Cham-dur) by adding salt, butter, and tea, milk, or hot water to it.
Where to Eat: Most lodges throughout the Everest Base Camp trail have tsampa or tsampa porridge on their menu. It’s a healthy alternative if you want to experiment with your breakfast.
Tibetean bread or ‘Kur’ is widely made in Sherpa households. These flatbreads are made by cooking the thick dough of flour with baking powder in a frying pan. Sherpas eat Kur with chili sauce, or butter, or potato soup.
Where to eat: You will find the Tibetan bread in the breakfast menu of most of the lodges. These bread are puffy with yeast or baking powder, cut in the center, deep-fried, and served with pickle, jam, or butter.
Shyaphale is another local snack of the Sherpas. It is made by wrapping the mixture of minced meat and spices in bread or dough of flour and deep-frying the bread.
Where to Eat: I don’t think that any lodges serve Shyaphale on their menu. So if you wish to try this dish, you gotta go local. The small local eateries (or bhattis) in Lukla and Namche bazaar cook Shyaphale.
Rildhuk is a popular summer Sherpa food as it is light and not designed to preserve the body heat. It is basically a soup made with lumps of mashed potatoes, the taste of which is enhanced by fried onion, garlic, chilies and tomatoes.
9. Su Chya (Butter Tea)
Let’s come to the beverage now. Butter tea or salt tea is a popular drink among the people across the Himalayan belt in Tibet, Nepal, India, and Bhutan. Traditionally, tea leaves were boiled in water, then poured into a wooden butter churn where butter and salt were added before transferring them to copper pots to warm. However, these days any vessel is used for cooking the tea.
Where to Drink: Since Sherpas run most hotels, you will find Su Chya all along the trails. We’d recommend you to try it in small hotels run by Sherpas in Lukla, Phakding, Monjo, Khumjung or Pangboche to make the experience even better.
In Sherpa communities, no social event is complete without alcohol. It is not only consumed for socializing but also considered sacred and offered to gods. A legend goes that Guru Padmasambhava first used Chang. And then, Tibetans started consuming and offering it as the drink of the Gods. Chang is a rice beer prepared by fermenting rice for several days. It has a milky color and sweet taste.
Where to Drink: The best places to drink Chang are the locally run small lodges or the local hooch places in the trails. As innocent as the Chang may look, we suggest you try the drink on your way back as alcohol causes dehydration and possesses a risk of altitude sickness. I’m sure it will make an excellent after-trek celebration drink to bring the singer or dancer in you!
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